Europe is leading the charge on electric vehicles (no pun intended… maybe) and Norway are at the forefront of the revolution. With 2022 now fully underway, we will start to see the first of the major global changes regarding the manufacture of vehicles start coming into effect.
The UK has set a deadline of 2030 for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to come to an end. An ambitious statement of intent for a nation that produces and purchases such a large number of vehicles. Norway, however, will be seeing the last petrol and diesel cars rolling off the assembly line in just over 3 months from now.
The April date is highly significant and it will be interesting to see how other countries follow suit. The astonishing thing about the end of conventionally-fuelled vehicles in Norway is that it will be happening a full 3 years before the Norwegian government’s phase-out plans come into effect. It is the manufacturers and the dealers themselves that have driven the phase-out early rather than the legislators.
Cultural changes from the top
Whenever there is change there will be resistance to it. This is particularly true if the changes are big and are being introduced quickly. The difference in Norway which has led to a far more seamless and swifter change comes from the very top. Since the 90’s the Norwegian governments (all of them) have been introducing policies that have promoted greener lifestyles and helped make electric vehicles affordable.
Norway has always been a more environmentally conscious country compared to many others in Europe, so the transitions would have been accepted with greater ease. Of course, incentives such as free municipal parking, not charges for toll roads, a 50% cap on fees for ferries and no road tax has certainly helped the cause.
Cutting costs and increasing take-up
One of the very few valid arguments against electric vehicles is the upfront cost compared to diesel or petrol vehicles. This has certainly been a barrier to the electric car industries growth potential in the UK. So what has Norway done to tackle this hurdle?
Interestingly, Norway spotted this barrier very early on in the electric vehicle revolution and actually made positive advancements to counter the issue. From 1990 onwards there has been a 0% tariff on import/purchase of electric vehicles. Norway then went even further in the year 2001 by introducing an exemption to paying the 25% VAT rate on car purchases for electric vehicles. The savings for Norwegian people is huge with electric vehicles actually being cheaper than their petrol or diesel counterparts.
By the end of 2021, Norway had around 10,000 public charge points. A figure that falls far behind the number we have in the UK. However, the population of Norway is much lower than the UK. This means that Norway actually has the most charge points per capita than almost any other country in the world.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is where the UK’s biggest challenges lie in the buildup to the 2030 deadline. The UK has a much denser population than Norway and it will need vastly more public charge points, and powerful ones too. Looking at how far the Norwegians have advanced in the last 30 years, it just feels that the UK is upping their game a bit late. The charging infrastructure should have been at this current point around 5 years ago. A lack of urgency has led to the UK being in a bit of a panicked state now as we try to catch up to where we need to be.
Electric vehicles just another extension of Norwegian culture
It is hardly surprising that a country like Norway is so ahead of the curve when it comes to electric vehicles. Norwegians have always had a fantastic reputation for being environmentally savvy.
From a very early age Norwegians are taught very green practices. Reuse and repurpose of items is second nature. The Norwegians are also one of the world leaders when it comes to recycling as well. There are some Norwegian practices that will seem strange to us in the UK, such as plogging. This is a way of exercising while collecting rubbish. There is also the very efficient method that the Norwegians have for reducing food waste, amongst other things. This mentality means that the Norwegians were always going to be more accepting of such positive environmental changes.
What can the UK learn?
Although the UK still has 8 years to go until the deadline for petrol and diesel cars arrives, it can be seen that we are a long way behind the Norwegians culturally. You feel that the resistance to the new technology is greater here than it is in Scandinavia. Not surprising when you consider how culturally different our countries are.
Without doubt the biggest obstacle for the British is the charging infrastructure. Range anxiety is still the number one perpetuating myth that goes around when we speak to people. This needs to be tackled and far more visible infrastructure needs to be put in place and it needs to be done quickly. There are so many great companies that are working to build the national charging network. They have the equipment, the skills and the desire to get the job done. It feels that the government at national and local levels, of all parties, has been dragging their heels for far too long.
Hand-in-hand with the visibility of charging infrastructure is the need for greater education on electric vehicles in order to dispel the copious number of myths that circulate. Some, for example, think that electric cars can only drive for 90 miles or that they take hours to get enough charge in them. The electric vehicle revolution is moving so fast that people outside of the industry or who aren’t familiar with electric vehicles are still thinking in terms of the technology as it was 10 or 15 years ago.
When it comes to educating people about electric vehicles it is important that everyone plays a part. Yes, we in the industry will take on a great amount of the burden. It’s something we have done for years, trying to dispel all the untruths. Yet we also need electric car owners and electric car enthusiasts to play a part too. The message will get through eventually.
Norway has shown the world that the switch can be done seamlessly. They’ve done it incredibly well and the Norwegians deserve a lot of credit for setting an example to the rest of the world.
Dear Norway, we salute you and thank you.
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* All information correct as of 29/12/2022.